BRAD LANDER SPEAKS: ‘I’m Giving Up My Placard and Will Stop Driving So Much’

Council Member Brad Lander. File photo: Stephen Miller
Council Member Brad Lander. File photo: Stephen Miller

The New York Post reported on Thursday that Council Member and Comptroller candidate Brad Lander had been nabbed by city school-zone speed cameras eight times since 2016, so we invited Lander to explain himself. In the following piece, he admits that he has driven recklessly and parked selfishly. But he also promises to reform his behavior with a slate of proposals. Readers will have different opinions on the extent of Lander’s commitment below — indeed, he does not specifically apologize or use the term “I’m sorry” in the piece — but we felt it was important to provide Lander’s unfiltered response. Here’s Lander’s story:

Accountability is hard. And it’s the only way we get better.

That’s what I want to help do for our city, as the next New York City Comptroller, our chief accountability officer. So I’d better be open to it for myself.

Over the past decade, I’ve been one of our city’s most outspoken advocates for safer streets, for road redesigns, and for more speed cameras. Our successful fight to expand the speed camera program has doubled the number of cameras and the hours they operate, leading to many more tickets. And the evidence is clear: speed cameras save lives.

I also passed the Reckless Driver Accountability Act to hold the city’s most reckless drivers accountable — those who get 15 speeding violations or five red-light violations in a year. They’ll get the opportunity to attend a driver accountability program, to help them change their driving before they injure or kill a neighbor. If they don’t attend, their car could be impounded. The program starts later this year at last, and we believe it will save many lives.

But I have some personal accounting to do. The New York Post recently looked at my driving (and parking) record, and I am not proud of it. So I’m making some specific commitments to change.

To be clear: I got eight speeding tickets over five years (most of them over the past 18 months, as the camera program has expanded). But that is enough to show a pattern — and it isn’t OK. I need to slow down and drive less.

And I’ve gotten a lot of parking tickets over the past decade, too. Many of those are expired meters, but some are alternate-side violations that prevented street cleaning, or blocking a hydrant. They aren’t OK either.

A New York Post stakeout and exposé is no fun. It stings. And I feel especially embarrassed to face the great group of street safety advocates who are supporting me for comptroller.

But being held accountable is really important.

That was then. Council Member Brad Lander (left) celebrated with Mayor de Blasio in late February when Hizzoner signed the Reckless Vehicle Abatement Program. Photo: Mayor's office
That was then. Council Member Brad Lander (left) celebrated with Mayor de Blasio in late February when Hizzoner signed the Reckless Vehicle Abatement Program. File photo: Mayor’s office

So rather than cancel my Post subscription (actually, I don’t have a Post subscription), I’ll thank the New York Post for serving as my own personal driver accountability warning — as an opportunity to take accountability more seriously. To use data to get better.

Because what we ultimately want from holding each other accountable is not shame, or Twitter dunking, or virtue signaling. It’s taking action to do better.

So here’s what I’m committing to:

  • First, every month going forward, I’ll make public how many parking or moving violations I get. Knowing that I’ll have to do it will make me slow down and follow parking rules.
  • Second, I will sign on as a co-sponsor to Council Member Steve Levin’s bill to allow citizen parking enforcement. I’ve hesitated to do so, anxious that it could lead to conflicts on our streets (but maybe there was some self-protection there, too). With this bill, the next time that Post reporters stake out my car, they could use a citizen reporting app to get me a ticket (and then I’d have to include it in the monthly list, too).
  • Third, I’ll make a serious effort to drive less — planning my schedule better so that I can use Citi Bike and public transit more often and leave the car behind (properly parked).
  • And finally, since privileges often encourage worse behavior, I will stop using my City Council parking placard altogether. I’ve racked up plenty of parking violations even with it, and the best way to change my patterns would be to get rid of the expanding parking opportunities that it provides.

One thing that won’t change: my advocacy for safer and more livable streets. If anything, I’m going to get louder and work harder to reduce reckless driving, by me and everyone else. To invest in public transit, so we can get more people — including me — out of cars. To redesign more of our streets, and turn more of them over to pedestrians and cyclists.

Because the ultimate purpose of holding each other accountable is to keep each other safe, and help each other thrive.

That’s the model I’ll take as New York City Comptroller, too: To tell the truth even when it’s not flattering; to hold our institutions and leaders to account, even when it’s not easy; to use data and transparency to make change that matters.

At the personal level, and the municipal: Accountability is hard. But it’s the only way we get better.